Our stories

Bucharest.

Bucharest, the little Paris of the East. Why a city-break?

Legend and general stuff

First I will explain the sub-title” yes, between the Two World Wars, Bucharest was considered the little Bucharest of the east. If you ever have the privilege to up on the Arch of the Triumph in Bucharest, the landscape convinces you that Bucharest is little Paris, established on the gates to the Balkan world.

The legend says that the shepherd Bucur during his yearly  transhumance from Charpatians to south, down to Danube river, he got tired and decided to find a place in the field to rest with his sheep. In Vlasia Forest he found this river, Dambovita river. He settled there with his daughter and some shepherds that were helping him with the herd. His descendants and her daughter descendants were the settlers of Bucharest. On a small hill in center of Bucharest, next to Dambovita river, there a church named Bucur. It is said that  the church was established by Bucur and his family.

Palace of Parliament Bucharest. the second greatest administrative building in the world.
Palace of Parliament Bucharest. the second greatest administrative building in the world.

As this is a legend, it is difficult to date back in time. It is certain thought that during Vlad the Impaler, so wrongly imagined as Dacula,  has his second residence in Bucharest. Considering that the latest of three princedoms  and year of his death was 1474, the tow must have existed there long before that date.  The ruins of Old Court can be still seen  in the Old city, during night the lighted statue of Vlad the Impaler is dominating the place.

As a fact, in Romanian “(ma) bucur” mean “I feel joy”. In a sense you can interpret  Bucharest (Bucuresti in Romanian) as city of joy or just simply enjoy it.

I am not going to say the entire Romanian history, but I will name key periods that influenced Bucharest as a town/ city and its inhabitants.

In the early medieval time, from 11 to 14th century, after the Roman pullback, on the Romanian territory there were formed 3 states: Wallachia, Transylvania and Moldavia.

Situated in southern side of actual Romania, Bucharest is present capital of Romania and  part of former Wallachia.  There were several capitals/residences of  Wallachia. The main capital of Wallachia were Curtea de Arges, followed Campulung for a short while,  Targoviste was for a longer period of time capital  of Wallachia (1396-1714), Bucharest became the capital of Wallachia, once the phanariotes rulers came to lead Romanian Princedom.

Back to Bucharest now: it is inhabited by almost 2 million citizens, it is the most populated city in Romania and it is the city with the biggest contributor to Romanian GDP. It has a surface of  228 sqkm and it has colorful architecture: mall, communist buildings and historical once, all in the same city.

I am not going to go through the entire history of Bucharest, but I will enhance periods important in Bucharest development into what Romanian capital is today.

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Brasov – gate to Transylvania

Brasov  –  gate to Transylvania

When it comes to Romania, most of the tourists associate Romania to Transylvania.

Brasov is the closest Transylvanian city, situated at  around 200 km away from the Romanian capital- Bucharest.  The city has always been flourishing, along centuries being a referral of trade and crafts, mainly due to its position, on the border of Wallachia and close to Moldavia as well as an important trade gate in Transylvania.  Corona, Kronstadt, Brasso or Brasov, as the city was named along centuries, has always been an important strategic point as the residence of Barsa County.  Besides, being placed  at the base of Tampa Mountains, in the Carpathians, Brasov it is charming regardless the season or even the centuries.

The city seems to date back to Dacian times, some archeological indices being found at Solomon stones and close to Mayor Hall Square.

Founded by the Teutonic Knights in 1211 on previously Dacian location, as previously mentioned, and settled by the Saxons as one of the seven walled citadels, along with Sibiu, Cluj, Sighisoara, Medias and Bistrita.

More proofs about the existence of the city at Tampa are found around  14th century when the town of those days had nucleus around St Mary Church ( presently Black Church).

Attractions in Brasov:

The Council Square: Placed in  the heart of old medieval Brasov among red-roofed merchant houses, the Council Square is a lovely  rest place for the tourist.

Old Town Hall (1420 – now it shelters  Brasov’s History Museum),  it is situated close to another famous attraction of the city:  Black Church.  Merchant’s House (Cerbul Carpatin restaurant) built  in the Renaissance style is placed close to it.

Black  Church:  Impressive by its size ( known as the biggest church between Vienna and Istanbul), the building got its name as a consequence of the big fire in 1689, when most of the town burnt. During this fire, the wall of the edifice blacken and the damages were  repaired in 100 years of restoration. During restorations, the  gothic aspect of the interior tended to the baroque style mostly seen today. The church also shelters 119 Anatolian Carpets( being the biggest collection of this type in Europe) and also a big attraction is the sound 4,000-pipe organ.

Defensive Fortifications:  The fortification was built  by Saxons as a consequence to the repeated attacks of Mongols and  Turks starting since 12th century.

They were originally built between 1440 and 1650 and  a small part of the historical fortification can be seen today. From the 7 initially bastions today can still be seen : Graft Bastion, White tower, Black Tower, Blacksmiths’ Bastion, Weavers’ Bastion, Brasov fortress, Catherine’s Gate, Schei Gate.

Facts: the 3rd narrowest street in Europe is Rope Street ( strada Sforii) and it measures from 111 to 135 cm and it is 80 m long.

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Why you should visit Sighisoara

 

Why you should visit Sighisoara

Why you should visit Sighisoara

 

Some might believe that including Sighisoara in a Romanian tour is such a cliché.  Well, if I usually disagree about clichés, when it comes to Sighisoara, I agree to disagree.  There cannot be Romanian tour without Sighisoara!

Sighisoara is for Dracula funs, Sighisoara is for people who hate (like I do) the Dracula myth and loving the strong character of Vlad Tepes, the real ruler who inspired the fictional character of Bram Stoker; Sighisoara is for medieval  towns’ admirers, Sighisoara is for middle town settlers, in the end,  Sighisoara is suitable for weekend escapes, Sighisoara is for everybody and everybody should love Sighisoara.

Even if it was long time ago since I first saw the medieval town, it seems like yesterday and I will always remember the day with cows and sheep on the hills of the villages along the way  and pigeons flying above the citadel, how hilarious it might sound, the image is story-like, believe me.

As you drive from Bucharest, once you passed Brasov and the Carpathians you believe you crossed the border into another world, story like. Actually, long time ago,  there was a border, the border between Wallachia and Transylvania, a border who miraculously seems to split two world in the same country : the Orient and the Occident.

Now, back again: once you passed Brasov, citadels and fortified churches pass one by one: Feldioara, Rupea, Viscri  and Cloasterf (the last two are not visible for the main road tourists), Saschiz, Sighisoara… Even the house of count Teleki, almost a ruin nowdays, can be seized by the tourists who want to surprise the spectacular along the road.  Then you notice Sighisoara.

Settled on the top of an upright hill, Sighisoara is like a beautiful fairy bringing kindness and happiness in everybody’s  life.  Even if it was years  ago, I still remember entering  the old citadel, one of the fewest inhabited citadels in Europe, shy and still curious. The street I entered was named Oberman Herman, just to remember to the world that Romania can be also associated to global science development, as Oberman Herman  figure is  highly associated to the astronomy development . Just google it !

Once you entered the old city you will love the long string of houses, Saxon houses, some of them  twith with Venetian influence, beautiful colored. The doorsteps are so low that you might easily imagine yourself in Lilliput world. The windows looked like indiscreet eyes, still, beautifully colored eyes!:) The image of houses with eyes is strongly following you, the amazed tourist, once you got in the main square place.   All around the square, the curios eyes- like windows show on the attic of the medieval houses. You only have to watch up-straight into their eyes, surely, you’ll  be mesmerized.

When you come from the main road, you meet first the torture place and the “Dracul” house. I am not a Dracula, lover so, actually, this is the house of Vlad Teped where  the character who inspired the Dracula character born.  The square, all around is beautiful. You have to visit the entire citadel and towers,  to understand the jobs of that period. The Evangelical fortified church is impressive and the orga sound  echo- like over the square. Shy, in corner, there is the old stair case. Go up on them and you meet the giant medieval beauty : the church upstairs. Visit it and necessarily speak to the guide in the church.. He knows the number of people  praying, visiting  and, if you ask me, he might even know he story behind the entire medieval Sighisoara, even  “the life” (if any) behind the combs downhill. You are ok, visit the cemetery and imagine the families there. Even if there are combs in the cemetery, there are no vampires around. Just a beautiful impressive Romanian citadel.

 

Sighisoara  facts and figures:”During the 12th century, German craftsmen and merchants known as the Transylvanian Saxons were invited to Transylvania by the King of Hungary to settle and defend the frontier of his realm. The chronicler Krauss lists a Saxon settlement in present-day Sighiṣoara by 1191.[citation needed] A document of 1280 records a town built on the site of a Roman fort as Castrum Sex or “six-sided camp”, referring to the fort’s shape of an irregular hexagon.[1] Other names recorded include Schaäsburg (1282), Schespurg (1298) and Segusvar (1300).[2] By 1337 Sighişoara had become a royal center for the kings, who awarded the settlement urban status in 1367 as the Civitas de Segusvar.”